Ransomware Attack Targets Popular Steamship Service to Martha’s Vineyard

Ransomware Attack Targets Popular Steamship Service to Martha's Vineyard

The Steamship Authority, which runs the ferry service between the Massachusets mainland and islands, was the victim of a ransomware attack on Wednesday.

On Wednesday around noon, the Steamship Authority of Massachusetts tweeted, “the Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority has been the target of a ransomware attack that is affecting operations as of Wednesday morning. As a result, customers traveling with us today may experience delays.”

The company stated that a “team of IT professionals is currently assessing the impact of the attack. Additional information will be provided upon completion of the initial assessment.”

Michael Tonello, a co-owner of a fashion boutique in Nantucket, was gazing out the window at the wharf Wednesday morning, wondering why the steamship hadn’t left at its regularly scheduled time.

“Usually the boats pull in with a full cargo of passengers, they unload, and then they reload… It runs almost like a commuter train, going back and forth,” he said, according to The Boston Globe. “It was sitting there all morning. It is a little bit concerning.”

At noon, he heard a whistle sounding off, which usually signaled the ferry was leaving. He looked out the window again.

“There it goes, the Eagle is now leaving,” Tonello said. “There are people on it, it is departing right this second.”

Simultaneously, the Steamship Authority started posting schedules, indicating it would post the ferry schedules via social media.

News of the ransomware attack comes on the tail-end of several high-profile cases.

On Tuesday, the White House‘s deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre commented on the attacks to reporters while aboard Air Force One. One of the victims was JBS, one of the largest meat producers in the world.

“JBS notified the administration that the ransom demand came from a criminal organization likely based in Russia, Jean-Pierre said. “So, the White House is engaging directly with the Russian government on this matter and delivering the message that responsible states do not harbor ransomware criminals.”

The FBI, she said, will be investigating the incident. On Wednesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said President Joe Biden would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss cyberattacks.

According to Chainalysis Insights, ransomware attacks went up 311 percent from 2019 to 2020. Attackers have since garnered $350 million in 2020 alone.

Charlie Gero, the chief technology officer of Akamai Technology, said the cyber defenses for many companies today are just not up to par with the level of criminals.

“The Internet is not just the technology that powers social media and memes…critical infrastructure is increasingly reachable online. This should serve as an incentive for all companies to audit their internal security practices and measures to ensure they are doing everything they can [to] not be the next headline.”

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.